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DESIGN
Frank Willems: Madam Rubens
by Brian Fichtner
on 04 June 2008
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After studying advertising and presentation techniques at St. Lucas College and the Design Academy Eindhoven , Frank Willems worked briefly with rising design luminary Joris Laarman. Now participating in various group exhibitions and creating unique studio work, Willems has joined the ranks of many young Dutch designers for whom personal expression is paramount.

The Madam Rubens collection, his most fully realized furniture design, saw its gestation in an Eindhoven research project into the life of waste materials. Frank explained in an email: "At a visit to a waste processing facility I learned almost all types of waste appeared to have a destination, except mattresses. They cause trouble because they get stuck between the shredders...For this reason, I started to work with old mattresses."

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Willems repurposes old mattresses, bending and folding them like giant pieces of bubblegum, then lashes the volumes to the bases of antique furnishings, creating quirky hybrids. The entire piece is then sprayed with a hygienic, water-resistant foam coating, and finished with a pliable, soft paint. Two of the most recent additions to the concept are the chair, Plus de Madam Rubens (top right, click for larger view), and the Petit Pouf (above right). The original stool, Madam Rubens (above left), is currently featured in a group exhibition devoted to seating (or non-seating) elements called Please Do Not Sit!, at Tools Galerie in Paris. It is the first time his work has been shown in France.

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